My daughter’s ninth birthday is today, which leaves me wondering: How did she grow up so fast?

A few days ago, I was driving her home from swim practice and we got to talking about getting older and how important birthdays are when you’re young. I said it must be exciting that she’d soon be only one year from reaching double-digits. Filling up both hands—that is, five-plus-five—is a big deal in school, she told me. “So is getting to the other hand,” she said. That’s shorthand for turning six years old. (My son reaches the other hand in less than a month.)

Which got me thinking about life and how my daughter now is only nine years from college, and how my son will be following her just awhile later. I’m starting to sound like my mother when I wonder where the time has gone. These past few months, I’ve found myself wistfully smiling at new parents carrying their infants. And I often think about what my legacy will be with my children. How are they going to remember their childhoods when they’re raising their own kids?

I’m also thinking about how I’ve changed and adapted over these years and how diminished my life would be without my family. Nine years and one day ago, I was standing in my old house with my wife, imagining my life as a parent. I remember saying that our lives would never be the same. I’m glad I was right.

So what’s ahead? I guess we all know that. For my children, there’s middle school and driving and boyfriends and girlfriends and on and on. By then, reaching the end of two hands will seem trivial to my kids. But that day, that milestone, will always be special to me.

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